When I first became a nurse, I remember getting advice left and right from my instructors and fellow nurses, some brand new and many with years of experience. It was information overload, to say the least! Since then, I have accrued 18 years of experience in everything from ER and ICU to Public Health and Oncology. One truth that has remained the same is that there are still tons of information nuggets to be learned, but it is not overloaded anymore. The more you dive down the rabbit hole of nursing, the more you are exposed to, and the more you can fine-tune the information that is coming in. If I could advise a new nurse, the first thing I would say is that lack of experience should never be confused with lack of intelligence. You have made it this far, and you should be proud of that! You have proven you have the "brains" for this.
From here on out, you are learning while someone is paying you, and class never ends. Don't expect to learn it all overnight — actually, don't expect to know it all, period! I am more of a student now than ever, and I love it. Also, never lose sight of why you are doing this in the first place. Our patients and their families are our purpose. When you wake up each morning, remind yourself how fortunate you are to have the privilege of having their trust. Remind yourself that you have 24 new hours before you spread compassion and make a difference in someone's life. Also, prepare yourself for those situations that don't work out the way you want. Death is an inevitable part of life, and no one escapes it. If we approach it with compassion, we learn that there is dignity in death, and it is our job to provide that.
Getting back to being a student, as I said, you will always be learning. Sometimes, the information makes sense, and sometimes, it takes numerous times of being exposed to something before it sinks in, and that's okay. If you can comprehend arterial blood gases (ABGs) from the beginning, that's great! Try to stay up to date with new information, whether it be reading journals, doing CE's, joining professional chapters, etc. Never become complacent and think what you know now will be best practice in 5 years. Understand that it is the journey that defines you, not the destination. If you stay inquisitive and well-informed, your patients will benefit, and our profession will grow exponentially with each opportunity grabbed.
Here are a few tips that I wish someone had told me when I started:
1. Don't chase a dollar sign, and don't work so much that you burn yourself out. After all, it's not how much you earn but how much you spend.
2. Patients are a person, not a diagnosis. The important moments will become obvious.
3. Not everyone is meant to work the OB, ER, or Flight — different strokes for different folks. Don't beat yourself up because you don't find joy in a particular area. It's okay. That's the awesome thing about our profession. There is a spot for everyone.
4. Don't be intimidated by seasoned nurses. We have all heard the stories about the older nurses who make life difficult for younger and/or newer nurses. For the most part, these are just stories. I have found that most experienced nurses are more than willing to help me learn and never make me feel inadequate for not knowing something.
5. Make sure you take care of yourself. Work-life balance is a must.
I'm sure there are many more words of wisdom I can pass on, but these are the basics. The fun part now is that you can start making your own list that you can pass along someday. Our profession is forever growing and always in need of positive forces directing it into the future.
The last thing I want to mention is how you describe yourself to others. You have worked hard to get where you are, and you know a lot more than you think you do. Never sell yourself short or diminish what you or anyone else in your profession does by saying, "I'm just a nurse." Look at that lineup on the internet, and you will see a never-ending supply of memes and articles stating why we should never say this. Stand up, be proud, and communicate in one uniting voice: "I am a nurse" and "We are nurses."
I wish you the best in your career. Let compassion be the fuel that drives you to learn and make a difference. Enjoy the journey and wonderment that is this beautiful profession. Above all, never stop learning.
About the Author:
Jeffrey Gemignani has been a nurse for 17 years, having started with his ADN at Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and then obtaining a BSN from Concordia University. He currently works as an Oncology Nurse Navigator and enjoys every minute of it.
Jeffrey is an independent contributor to CEUfast’s Nursing Blog Program.
Please note that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post are solely of the independent contributor and do not necessarily represent those of CEUfast. This blog post is not medical advice. Always consult with your personal healthcare provider for any health-related questions or concerns.
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